I used to tell a story to my yoga classes that I heard at my friend Mitchell’s bar mitzvah. It’s about the famous “parting of the Red Sea.” Most of the accounts in the spiritual texts describe the event as a miracle, the kind that just happens when faith and hope come together to manifest salvation.
The version I heard at the bar mitzvah describes people furiously and valiantly swimming and swimming, working together and fighting hard for what they needed. Only after the effort, and teamwork, and struggle, did the red seas finally part.
I particularly love this story because I believe in both the spiritual and the practical, the human and the divine, I think that kind words and conscious behavior create the environment for powerful actions.
Our thoughts and prayers are the foundation for how we do things, they cannot, themselves, replace the things that we do.
My personal value system is one of non violence. I’m anti-war and anti-aggression. I don’t think anyone should own guns for any reason and I don’t think any problem has ever been solved by violence of any kind.
But my beliefs are situated in a complex, varied system of laws and culture. They must co exist with my rights and obligations both as a human on this planet and a citizen of the United States.
What continues to frustrate me about gun violence in this country is our failure to meet the challenge to act every time we are met with an opportunity.
We are standing on the shoreline, clinging to our values and perspectives, unwilling to do the work to affect (and effect) change.
Gun violence, like absolutely everything, has more than one root cause. There are all sorts of complicated and intersecting issues here, some, like the legislation that governs access to and use of weapons, the way the media covers and responds to violence, and how we provide resources and support for mental illness are well within our control; some, like the individual thoughts and mindsets of the people who commit mass shootings, are admittedly, tragically, outside of it.
It seems absolutely ludicrous to me that we continue to unpack and focus on the latter, something we never could and never will be able to impact, as we shield ourselves from meaningful action on the former, the things we absolutely can do something about. We can’t control everything, but the things we can, we must.
Send your prayers and dedicate your yoga practice and tell your family you love them. Sending “light and love” to the world matters. It all does.
But the other things that matter, as much, if not more, are the concrete actions we take as we move forward. Call your representatives, both at the state and federal level. Tell them the outcome you’re seeking and what you need them to do to make it happen. Get involved in a 2018 primary campaign with a candidate who has a platform that explicitly addresses gun violence. Take a look at where you’ve been unwilling to sacrifice your personal freedoms for the protection of your countrymen, and what the cost of that has been, up until now, and will be, into the future. Acknowledge where you’ve stayed out of the debate about gun control because you’re meditating on healing or praying for unity or manifesting peace.
We are all in this together. And the red seas are not going to part for us all on their own.
Time to dive in and start swimming.